Monday, December 8, 2014

Toy Review – WWE Elite Collection Series 31 Vader from Mattel

But first...
Needless Things & Zenescope Entertainment
The Winter Wonderland Contest!

If you listen to the Needless Things Podcast and visit Needless Things, you could win a Wonderland prize pack from Zenescope, which includes:

*One Alice action figure sculpted by Clayburn Moore, as reviewed here on Needless Things

*One Grimm Fairy Tales: Wonderland board game

*A trade paperback collection of the Wonderland comic book from Zenescope Entertainment

Just send an e-mail to with the subject “Winter Wonderland” telling us one item you would take with you if you were going down the rabbit hole into the wild world of Wonderland.

Be sure to include your name, phone number (in case we need to contact the winner), and mailing address. 
Contest runs now through midnight on December 13th, 2014. One entry per individual.


I kicked off last week with a review of a Vader action figure, and I’d like to do the same this week.

Apparently I am collecting wrestling action figures again. This is a problem. I need to be reducing the number of lines I am collecting, not adding to them.

But I let myself buy those Wyatt family figures and they were so good. It reminded me that Mattel’s WWE line is one of the best 6” scale lines on the market today. And while I can avoid modern wrestlers for the most part, when I see some of my favorites from the past I tend to weaken. That’s how I ended up buying the Road Warriors from a K Mart that’s closing and how I ended up buying today’s subject – Big Van Vader.

It also helped that I had found last week’s Vader at the same time and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy two completely different Vaders in one transaction.

My early memories of Vader are weird, because I could have sworn he was around when I was a kid, but he didn’t even debut in WCW until I was in high school and didn’t show up in WWF until 1996, two years after I had graduated and a year before I was watching WWF full time again. This leads me to believe that I’ve been wrong about taking a hiatus from watching wrestling in the early 90s. I must have still been tuning in in some capacity because I remember seeing Vader in action before his WWF days. I suppose there’s a good chance I was still tuning in to the late night Saturday shows from time to time.

The timing of Vader’s debut is doubly strange to me because it means that I was too old to be scared of wrestlers, yet he is in my consciousness as a thing I have been scared of. Or intimidated by, at the very least.

Either way, I have always been a fan of his look and his work. He’s one of those guys that looked and acted like a monster. Well, except for this time:


This is a big, solid figure. Mattel really nailed the Mastodon’s proportions. He’s thick and sturdy without looking fat. I want to note that the black rings around his wrists are actually the tops of his gloves and should have been pushed down further for the pictures. As often happens, it was late when I took the pictures and I wasn’t really thinking about what those were. The figure looks better once you move them.


It’s a little big, but the current WWE Elite packaging is good. The window has a nice, asymmetrical shape to it that catches the eye and shows off all of the included gear. The angled left side with the picture of the Superstar makes these much easier to browse on the pegs than other toy lines. The graphics are nice and consistent throughout the line, despite depicting very different individuals from different eras.

You guys know I love my cardback bios, and the Elite line has some of the best. Each figure gets a detailed, yet brief, history. It’s enough to give you an idea of the Superstar’s history and persona without being a burden to read.


This figure looks great. There’s no denying that. The head sculpt is as good as any that Mattel has released in this line and better than most. But I’m just not sure about that facial expression. That open mouth makes ol’ Leon look kind of like a big sack of duh. It’s better when you put the mask on, though, and even better than that with the mastodon helmet thing on. Obviously.

Sculpting choices aside, the head looks great. The hair is textured and defined nicely. The paint is great and in all the right spots. Vader’s hair is the right color and those baby blues are centered and vivid.

Vader’s singlet is sculpted on rather than just painted and is correct. They didn’t just use some other similar body and call it a day. The figure’s proportions are correct as well – it’s not just the mask and the colors – every bit of this collection of plastic parts screams “Vader”. 
The gloved hands look good. These might be Undertaker fists; I don’t know. But they work for Vader. Especially when you have the black rings around the wrists pushed down into place (ahem).

The kneepads aren’t perfect, but they look right, if that makes sense. They’re the really big, wide ones like Vader wore. They just don’t have textures. 
The boots look great. If it’s weird to be consistently impressed with the level of detail in a particular action figure line’s footwear, then call me weird. I just feel like Mattel always does such a great job with the boots on these guys. They have seams and textures and look lived in.

Vader comes with his trademark mask and the crazy-ass helmet armor thing he wore to the ring in WCW.

The mask is rubber and doesn’t seem like it’s going to fit over the figure’s head, but it does. And perfectly. Once it’s on it looks great and isn’t too big. It’s very difficult to get head accessories to both look and work right on action figures, so this mask is very impressive.

The mastodon helmet is made of a soft plastic and fits over the figure’s unmasked head. It looks great and is pretty darn creepy. It could also pass for a Krampus mask.

Like all of the Elite figures, Vader is packed with meaningful articulation. The figure can achieve pretty much any pose you might expect the real Vader to be able to perform. With any thicker or larger action figure, the concern is always that the necessary girth of the parts will reduce the range of the joints. This is not the case with Vader. All of the joints have the depth you would expect of them. Obviously his kneepads interfere with those joints, but they can slide around a bit or even be removed entirely.

Between the fun mask accessories and the great articulation, this is a fun figure. My only regret is that I don’t have a Cactus Jack for him to powerbomb.


I absolutely love this figure. I’ve been very satisfied with almost every WWE Elite figure I’ve bought and Vader is no exception. This isn’t exactly a cheap line, but compared to other lines in the same price range I feel like Mattel is really delivering bang for buck here.
If you’re a fan of Vader this figure is a must-have. Same goes if you’re just collecting Legends.

Additionally, I would strongly encourage any action figure collector to pick out a WWE Elite figure next time they’re at the toy store. Just find one that you think looks neat and buy it. I think it’ll be worth your dollars just to have the fun of opening it up and seeing just how good these really are.

5 out of 5

Or go and find one on Amazon and help ol’ Phantom pay the bills around this joint:

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